Elbow Arthritis

Elbow Arthritis Arthritis is disorder that affects the joints. Arthritis in the elbow is not as common as in other joints in the body, such as knee arthritis or ankle arthritis, because it typically occurs in weight-bearing joints. However, elbow arthritis still occurs and can be very painful to those who are affected. There are over 100 different types of arthritis that can affect the elbow, but elbow osteoarthritis is the most common.

Elbow Arthritis Causes

Elbow arthritis can be caused by a number of different factors depending on the type of arthritis that the patient has. One common cause is through previous injury to the area. Patients who have had prior elbow injuries are more likely to develop certain forms of elbow arthritis. This may be seen in athletes who use their elbows during sports, such as tennis players, golfers or football quarterbacks.

Another common cause of elbow arthritis is through natural aging. As we get older, the cartilage in our joints starts to wear away. This often results in osteoarthritis or other forms of arthritis in the elbow. Luckily, since our elbows do not bear as much weight as the hips or knees, the elbow stands up to large forces and age much better than other joints.

Elbow Arthritis Symptoms

Here are the most common symptoms of elbow arthritis:

  • Pain on the outer side of the joint
  • Pain that increases as you rotate your forearm or extend your arm
  • Pain at night or even while resting
  • Pain in both elbows
  • Swelling (more common in rheumatoid arthritis, a type of arthritis that causes the cartilage to deteriorate)
  • Limited range of motion when straightening or bending the elbow
  • Elbow instability
  • Stiffness or locking of the joint
  • Numbness in the fingers (may occur in late stages of osteoarthritis)
Numbness in the fingers (may occur in late stages of osteoarthritis)


As with any injury, your doctor will be the best source of advice on the appropriate treatment method for your situation. Since there are many types of elbow arthritis, your treatment will vary depending on your physician's recommendations. Elbow arthritis treatment often begins with decreasing the amount of activities that involve the elbow. Oral medications that help reduce or alleviate elbow pain may be used if there is a significant amount of pain. This can range from over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin, or they may be prescribed pain relievers.

Physical therapy is also commonly used to treat elbow arthritis. Your therapist will show you exercises and stretches that gently strengthen the elbow and increases its flexibility. They may also apply hot or cold therapy which helps sooth the joint and numb away pain.

If pain continues, your doctor may suggest steroid injections which significantly reduces pain in the elbow joint. Historically this type of treatment is very effective in relieving elbow arthritis pain. In more severe cases of elbow arthritis where conservative treatments have had little to no effect, surgery may be recommended.


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